Motherhood and career pursuit: how can women combine?

By Rachel Sarpong

 

Many women around the world have been successful in their careers, despite the demanding job of being a mother as well. Responsibilities of climbing the career development ladder in any career is daunting which involves attending executive meetings, conferences, courses and, above all, being at post at all times. In the same way the responsibilities of motherhood entails a lot— washing of baby bottles, changing diapers, attending Parent-Teacher Association meetings, supervising wards’ assignments, sending and picking children to and from school and taking children for check-ups, among others.

 

The nine months’ pregnancy that women go through also has health-related challenges which could cause women to miss business opportunities and result in loss of work time and affect women’s career advancement which leaves the top positions for their men counterparts.

 

The good news, however, is that help is available for women who want to excel in their careers. Family planning is a method of controlling the number of children one would want to have as well as the intervals between their births.

 

Family planning methods may involve the use of contraceptives, sex education and voluntary sterilization. Due to the stress and sacrifices women have to go through during pregnancy and the subsequent responsibilities of motherhood, there is the need for career women to plan the birth of their children. No employer would want to give a woman three maternity leaves in five years and so a woman may risk losing her job if care is not taken. Proper planning and consideration, therefore, need to be taken by career women if they want to keep their jobs.

 

The Ministry of Health has introduced a family planning policy that helps women to have access to family planning at One Ghana Cedi at any government hospital in the country to enable as many women as possible to get access to family planning.

 

Alternatively, women who prefer to make motherhood their priority can enter into entrepreneurship in order to balance these two responsibilities adequately. In this way one can have full control over one’s daily activities. In that instance, they can have ample maternity leaves to take care of themselves and their children and can also take their newly born babies to work without any prohibition from employers and colleagues.

 

Ghana’s Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) grants women  12 weeks of maternity leave without losing their position in the company. During this period, the woman’s salary is still paid.

 

 A study conducted by the Ghana Health Service (GHS)in Wa indicated that about 81% of nursing mothers enjoy the compulsory three (3) months maternity leave and that after the three months, 69% of nursing mothers who go beyond this do not receive any support from employers.

 

It is advisable, therefore, that in situations where there is no pay for maternity leave, women should save towards their leave so that they can take good care of themselves during maternity.

 

Leaving one’s three month old baby at home to attend work can be very worrying to mothers and may have health implications on the baby as well. The GHS study conducted in Wa also indicates that “about 94% of mothers are aware that infants are healthier on only breast milk for the first 6 months than they do on other milks, nevertheless only 10.3% of them practise the exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) in the first 6 months”. The situation can be attributed to the level of unemployment in the country, for which reason and one has to secure one’s job at all cost.

 

On the premise of this study, 3 months of maternity leave for women can endanger their baby’s life because they will not get enough time to feed their new born babies who require 6months of exclusive breast feeding.

 

To overcome the challenge of inadequate leave period, women all over the world can, therefore, put forward an advocacy for maternity leave to be extended from three months to six months. Indeed, the advocacy has begun, led by Ghana’s first lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who, on August 21, 2017, called for the extension of maternity leave from the current three months to five months, citing the provisions of the International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention, to which Ghana is a signatory.

 

A day care arrangement at one’s neighborhood in advance can also reduce the burden of who takes care of the babies after birth. After the maternity leave of three months, mothers would have to enroll at a crèche in order to report for work to avoid layoff and disturbances from employers. It is, therefore, imperative that expectant mothers make preparation for their babies after maternity leave. A day care centre that one can trust to take care of one’s baby while at work will be most desirable.

 

Other ways women can combine career and motherhood is to bring the fathers of their babies and other family members on board. It is advisable to discuss the upkeep of the baby with one’s partner before delivery. It is necessary to have a common goal and vision. Some fathers are very helpful in terms of preparing the children for school. They can even help with the washing of clothes and handling of the babies. In the absence of the father, support from family and friends is the next option. This is the time that support is needed from everywhere possible. Everybody needs people to survive at a point in time. One cannot do it alone so family and friends can be of help in taking care of the babies while mothers attend work. Hiring the services of a baby sitter or a nanny to take care of the child while one is away to work is another option, though care must be taken in the choice of such a person.

 

Career women also need to take good care of themselves. In the early days of motherhood, women are sleep-deprived and need a lot of energy. They lose energy through breastfeeding and taking care of the child. Women are advised to eat, sleep and exercise well in order to have energy for the task of combining career and motherhood, and enjoy one’s baby to have psychological strength.